Microfoundations of decoupling: from a coping theory perspective - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles M@n@gement Year : 2016

Microfoundations of decoupling: from a coping theory perspective

Eléonore Mounoud
Jean-Denis Culié


In neo-institutional theory literature, studies of decoupling have provided only a binary view of the employees of symbolic structures: ceremonial props or change agents. To obtain a richer view of the working life of these particular individuals, we rely on an instrumental case study to examine how they perceive a decoupling situation and do their job. Our fieldwork takes place in a multinational company, which adopts the vision and implements different tools and practices of knowledge management (KM), but a decoupling situation eventually emerges where KM ends up as a ceremonial façade. After four years of participant observation, we conclude our fieldwork by interviewing the seven knowledge managers we have worked with. We initially develop a typology representing the different ways in which these knowledge managers interpret the decoupling situation and accomplish their mission accordingly. Moreover, as we observe that they all suffer from stress, we use the coping theory to further investigate their working life and eventually transform our typology into a manifestation of decoupling at micro level. Meaning-making, work-level actions and emotions are brought into this picture, illustrating the reciprocal relationships between the decoupling situation and the micro-level employees of the symbolic structures, thereby explaining how decoupling persists from a micro perspective. This result contributes to enhancing the micro-macro link in institutional analysis that has been greatly missing in the neo-institutional theory literature.

Dates and versions

hal-01689506 , version 1 (22-01-2018)



Eléonore Mounoud, Linh-Chi Vo, Jean-Denis Culié. Microfoundations of decoupling: from a coping theory perspective. M@n@gement, 2016, 19 (4), pp.248 - 276. ⟨10.3917/mana.194.0248⟩. ⟨hal-01689506⟩
83 View
0 Download



Gmail Facebook X LinkedIn More